Bluff that he became a poker fan and player as a result of the increasing exposure of the game, at the time, in popular entertainment markets. Specifically, Cena credited the televising of the World Series of Poker, as well as the film Rounders (for which a sequel is in the works) with sparking his interest. This is a fairly common theme among celebrity poker players, and some of the most established pros even credit these same things with helping to launch their careers. This is fascinating to remember eight years later. Given that Cena was one out of tens of millions of poker fans to take up the game in the first decade of the 21st century, it's no surprise just how huge the poker industry has become today.
But there are also aspects of amateur poker interest that have changed, and those too are evident in Cena's comments. When asked if he frequently plays while on the road, Cena claimed his primary playing experience came at his own home in games he organized. Also, while wrestlers played card games on the road, it usually wasn't as intense as real money Texas Hold'em.
For all we know that's still the case today, but given the incredible rise of online poker internationally and in parts of the U.S., it's also easy to imagine that people like John Cena have more serious options while on the go. Even in the U.S. there are options. Certain apps allow players to access accounts remotely and play casino games with real money on the line, which is a very convenient option for athletes and performers like Cena who spend a great deal of time on the road. If 2006 saw pro wrestlers opting for simple card games over full-fledged poker competition, it's easy to envision them using mobile phones and tablets to get a bit more serious these days.
And finally, Cena made the somewhat-prophetic observation that professional poker was becoming so popular that some high-profile players were beginning to establish themselves as performers and characters. They were almost, Cena said, like WWE wrestlers. This has only become more accurate over time. Poker News' current #1 worldwide player, Ole Schemion, is known for a sort of carefree college boy style, often sporting fraternity-style sunglasses and sleeveless shirts and hoodies at the tables; Chris Ferguson was known for years as "Jesus" simply due to his appearance; and even youngster WSOP winner Dan Colman has developed a sort of persona simply by being serious and soft-spoken. With so much focus on individual habits, appearance, and performance, it was probably inevitable that poker players would develop these types of public personalities. But it was certainly an interesting observation by Cena in the relatively early days of televised poker.
Ultimately, John Cena maintains a pretty low profile among celebrity poker players, and he has yet to make any noise at a major event. But given how many pro athletes and performers take an interest in the game, he seems to have had an oddly perceptive understanding of the meaning and direction of professional poker over the years. Here's hoping he finds his way to a big time table one day!